Friday, 12 June 2015

All About .... Foot Conformation.

In the past I have written about the structure of the foot in  my  Shoes and Shoeing blog and about the Hot Shoeing Process.  Today, following on from last week's blog I'm going to look at conformation of the foot! 

I mentioned last week about the horses feet being in pairs, the front feet should be a pair and the hind feet should be a pair.  The front feet are usually more round because they are designed for weight bearing, the hind feet are more oval as they are for pushing! 

The horse should ideally place equal weight on each side and the front and back as this will mean that his body weight is evenly distributed.  This is important to bear in mind when looking at foot balance. 

So, as with general conformation first take a step back and look at the feet, are they in pairs?  If the feet are significantly different this could impact on the soundness of the horse.  They may be more likely to suffer from lameness problems.  Basil has quite uneven front feet, however, with careful, regular shoeing I have had no problems.  

Take a look at the quality of the horn.  Horses' that have poor horn are more difficult to keep shoes on.  Look out for brittle horn, ridges or where old nail holes have not closed up.  As a thoroughbred Basil's foot horn is not great, but with Farriers' Formula they have improved.  We work with it!

Next look at the angle of the front foot and the pastern.  You want the foot to be at the same angle as the pastern, which in turn should be a similar angle to the shoulder (45 - 50 degrees).  If the pastern and hoof angle is different the weight distribution will be uneven.  

As mentioned last week you should be able to draw a line down the centre of the horses leg and on through the foot, each side should be equal.  

Look at the horse when he is standing at rest, are his toes pointing directly to the front?  If the toes turn in or out the weight will not be equally balanced over the entire surface of the foot. 

Any uneven weight distribution can cause tendon or ligament damage and can put extra strain on the joints.  This can lead to lameness problems.  The ideal foot will land level on the ground, with perfect side to side balance and forward/backward balance.  Both are affected by the conformation of the foot!

Many foot conformation problems can be helped with specialist shoeing or balancing by a farrier.  

However, poor shoeing can also cause problems so after a horse has been shod look out for:

  • the shoe should be made to fit the foot, not the other way around unless the horse needs specialist (remedial) shoeing 
  • the foot should be level to the ground 
  • the frog should be close to the ground (for shock absorption purposes) 
  • the clenches should be in line 
  • toe and quarter clips should be neat 
  • the hoof wall should only be lightly rasped 
  • the horse should be sound when trotted up

Refer to my previous blogs for more information about the Shoeing Process.

Problems to look out for:

  • if the toe is rasped away to make the foot fit the shoe (called dumping) the angle of the wall will change leaving a smaller weight bearing surface
  • if the heels are lowered it will put extra strain on the tendons and ligaments 
  • long toes will cause the horse to stumble 
  • paring the sole too much will cause the horse to be foot sore 
  • rasping the hoof wall too much will affect the periople - leading to the foot drying out and brittle horn 
  • nail bind is when the farrier has driven the nail too close to the white line, the sensitive part of the horse's foot - leading to pain and lameness 
  • nail prick is when the nail is driven into the white line - pain and lameness.  This can also cause an infection

Having an awareness of foot conformation is useful to help your understanding of a horse and it's possible problems.  However, as I said last week make sure you look at the horse as a whole, his temperament and history too.

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Until next time!

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